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The ABA was founded on August 21, 1878, in Saratoga Springs, New York, by
100 lawyers from 21 states. The legal profession as we know it today
barely existed at that time. Lawyers were generally sole practitioners
who trained under a system of apprenticeship.
There was no national code of ethics; there was no national organization
to serve as a forum for discussion of the increasingly intricate issues
involved in legal practice.
The original ABA constitution, which is still substantially the charter
of the Association, defined the purpose of the ABA as being for "the
advancement of the science of jurisprudence, the promotion of the
administration of justice and a uniformity of legislation throughout the
Today, the stated mission of the American Bar Association is "to be the
national representative of the legal profession, serving the public and
the profession by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect
for the law."
The eleven goals of the Association are:
* Promote improvement in the American system of justice
* Promote meaningful access to legal representation and the American
system of justice for all persons regardless of their economic or
* Provide ongoing leadership in improving the law to serve the
changing needs of society
* Increase public understanding of and respect for the law, the legal
process and the role of the legal profession
* Achieve the highest standards of professionalism, competence, and
* Serve as the national representative of the legal profession
* Provide benefits, programs and services which promote professional
growth and enhance the quality of life of the members
* Advance the rule of law in the world
* Promote full and equal participation in the legal profession by
minorities and women
* Preserve and enhance the ideals of the legal profession as a common
calling and its dedication to public service
* Preserve the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary
as fundamental to a free society.
The ABA's influence today stems from both the number and diversity of its
membership. ABA members represent approximately half of all lawyers in
the United States. In addition, the Law Student Division has more than
ABA membership is open to lawyers admitted to practice and in good
standing before the bar of any state or territory of the United States.
Eligible to join the ABA as associates are: non-lawyer judges, federal
court executives, bar association executives, law school educators,
criminal justice professionals, members of administrative agencies,
industrial organization economists, law office administrators, legal
assistants, law librarians and members of Association-approved law school
boards of visitors. Members of the legal profession in other nations who
have not been admitted to the practice of law in the United States can
become international associates.
About 50,000 lawyers joined the Association in the last year!
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